They Say, We Say: "Why should the U.S. care about Israeli-Palestinian peace?"
We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.
You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.
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Why should the U.S. care about Israeli-Palestinian peace?
The U.S. can't want peace more than the parties themselves. There is no reason why the U.S. must lead peace efforts or why Israeli-Palestinian issues should be a priority for any American president.
The U.S. can want peace more than the parties, and indeed seems to want it more than the parties at the present time and perhaps in the future. This is because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not merely a local issue that impacts Israelis and Palestinians exclusively. It has ramifications for the region and for vital U.S. national interests, including the U.S. interest in Israel's security and its viability as a Jewish state and a democracy. The persistent failure of peace efforts is a reflection of the complexity of the issues at stake, of the refusal of the parties to cooperate, and in no small measure it is also a reflection of the absence of sufficient political resolve on the part of successive U.S. administrations.
Clearly, there is no single magic formula for moving forward. While there is already a longstanding and broadly-based consensus on most of the elements of a permanent status agreement, it is clear that, on their own, Israelis and Palestinians cannot get to an agreement. The difficult compromises that will be demanded from both sides necessitate U.S. leadership to bring the sides together and help them to come to agreement.
To achieve this, the United States must lead with conviction. Whether one is talking about a new effort to launch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or about more dramatic steps, the success or failure of any U.S. policy will lie first and foremost in the ability of the U.S. to get the parties to take the effort seriously. Such U.S. leadership is vital. There is no option of putting peace "on hold" until circumstances are more promising; in the absence of tangible progress toward peace and a political horizon for an end to the conflict, developments every day on the ground and in the political sphere render circumstances ever-more antithetical to peace. Likewise, there is no serious option to simply "manage" a conflict that has the potential to inflame the region and beyond.
Likewise, the two-state solution - the only viable solution to this conflict and a solution that is vital both to Israel's survival and to U.S. national security interests - won't survive indefinitely. The absence of a credible peace process leaves the door open to violence, emboldening both those who advocate unilateral action and those who support the use of force over negotiations. As importantly, it permits developments on the ground - like settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - that are antithetical to the two-state solution.